What, you may ask, is a verbal cue? A verbal cue is a word or a few words that can be used in a conversation around a sensitive issue, that will let one partner tell the other partner that it would be best to stop what they are doing or saying and re-consider. Often they are used when the material being discussed is of a repetitive nature (“We’ve been down this road before”), and things are escalating, and the person who uses the verbal cue is wanting to stop the action before it’s too late.
Verbal Cues need to be agreed to by both parties, and it is agreed that the use of the verbal cue is a neutral, and often positive act to help keep the relationship moving on a positive track.
An example of how one might be used in an ADHD relationship is when the ADHD partner is deeply focused on something, like working on their computer, and the non-ADHD partner wants their attention for a moment to ask what they consider an important question. The non-ADHD partner might say, “I’d like your attention for a moment. Is this a good time?” Instead of getting irritated that they’ve been interrupted from whatever they are focused on, the ADHD partner can say, “If you give me a moment to finish responding to this e-mail then I’d be happy to answer your question.”
As you might imagine, the use of the verbal cue achieves a much better result than the non-ADHD partner asking to be paid attention to, not getting what they need, and then saying, “You never seem to have time for me. I don’t know why I bother.”
As mentioned, it is important for the couple to agree to whatever the verbal cue is in advance and to use it at appropriate times. It’s important to agree to the cue when things are going well so that both partners have a say in what the verbal cue is and when to use it.
Another example of a verbal cue might be something silly like “Black Eyed Peas.” A verbal cue such as this one might be used when tempers start to flare, and one party wants to cool it down. The use of Black Eyed Peas is based on your favorite singing group, and a concert you once attended together. It brings a smile to both of you, and the tension is broken.
If you and your partner need a better way to relate in some of those tense times, you might plan ahead and use your verbal cue.